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Davis, California

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Fast cars and police officers

NICKI PADAR / AGGIE
NICKI PADAR / AGGIE

UCDPD unveil distracted driving campaign

Students might not have expected to ride next to a police officer in a three-wheeled sports vehicle in the near future, but in the coming weeks, the opportunity might just present itself. The UC Davis Police Department (UCDPD) unveiled their distracted driving campaign at the basketball game Feb. 13 alongside free pizza and games of water pong.

The campaign seeks to emulate the message of the California Office of Traffic Safety campaign, which carries the motto, “Cell Phones, Texting. It’s Not Worth It. It’s Just That Simple.” However, UCDPD hope to gear their campaign toward young and first time drivers, a title that applies to many college students.

In addition, the campaign hopes to capture student attention through interactive virtual reality simulations, drunk goggles and the sleek slingshot sports vehicle, which will appear throughout campus in the coming weeks. The campaign gives the police an updated look that is at odds with the negative image college students often hold against them.

The effort is organized by Outreach Coordinator Ray Holguin who also runs the cadet program on campus. Erika Benguard, fourth-year psychology major and police cadet, said that both programs seek to find common ground between students, officers and the greater community.

“It will help our law enforcers and students engage in communication, which is one of the things they teach us in the program — to foster a connection with our students and our community,” Benguard said.

Distracted driving is not limited to cell phone use but also includes eating, drinking and putting on makeup, all of which can lead to a distracted driving ticket of about $200.

Many still engage in distracted driving, and often don’t know that their actions could actually afford them a ticket. And according to Holguin, distracted driving has been a major cause of deaths in the United States.

“In 2013, 3,154 people were killed and an estimated additional 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers,” Holguin said.

Given the fact that the campaign seeks to reduce distracted driving, the use of an admittedly distracting car is an interesting choice. Fatima Ramos, a fourth-year sociology major and student cadet, said that is part of the point.

“As you can see, the car is really distracting and we haven’t even turned the lights on yet,” Ramos said. “It distracts you from what you’re doing, demonstrating what might grab your attention while driving.”

The flashy car adds to the college-friendly campaign approach, which Holguin hopes will allow another path to conversation between students and police officers. Students will be able to ride alongside police officers in the vehicle and discuss what constitutes distracted driving and the issues associated with it, a conversation which may not have occurred without the vehicle.

Though the car might seem like an unnecessary expense, it is not funded through any state money. Instead, the vehicle and much of the other outreach expenses, like the SafeRide application and bike lights, are funded through fines that are given for campus offenses.

“Apart from the distracted driving campaign, it also makes [police officers] a little more approachable,” Benguard said. “Whenever a student sees a [police officer], they think, ‘Oh I need to do everything right now.’ The car is a way to have a good laugh and make police officers and law enforcement in general seem a little bit more approachable and friendly with people here on campus.”

Hope Nikolaychuk, a fourth-year chemistry major and Transportation and Parking Services employee, is used to friendly interactions with the campus police since her office is in such close proximity to UCDPD, but is excited that the campaign might reach others who do not have this access.

“They are showing that police officers can be friends and not foes,” Nikolaychuk said. “It’s a good way to draw people in.”

Written by: Anna Nestel — features@theaggie.org

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